27 November, 2020

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President Reaffirms Commitment To Reconciliation Process

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

Prior to Independence Day there was an increasing concern about the extent of President Maithripala Sirisena’s commitment to the reconciliation process. These doubts surfaced with the President’s declaration that there would be no international involvement on issues arising from the war. He followed this up by saying that no war crimes had been committed in Sri Lanka and that the UN report only alleged human rights violations. Both of these assertions were given wide media publicity. They contradicted the government’s agreement with the UN Human Rights Council regarding international participation of foreign judges, prosecutors and investigators in a judicial accountability mechanism. It was left to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to exercise his damage control skills and assure the international community that Sri Lanka would stand by its international commitments.

In the course of his Independence Day speech President Sirisena fell in line with the Prime Minister’s position. He said “There are incorrect interpretations given about the resolution presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council. I clearly state that we are facing these resolutions in order to protect the pride and dignity of our country, our people and our security forces, and also to make our tri forces to be internationally renowned armed force. We should face these resolutions with patience, discipline and decorum so that our country could be respectfully recognized by all international organizations including the UNO and all states in the world.” This change of direction ensured that the visit of UN Human Rights High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein to Sri Lanka would not start on a note of fundamental disagreement.

MaithripalaThe government has used the presence of the UN High Commissioner to share its plans for an expedited series of consultations with the general public in the space of three months and to bring in an element of international participation into the process. An eleven-member Consultation Task Force will work with the help of Pablo de Greiff, Special UN Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparations and guarantees of non-recurrence. The framework for the consultation process, already formulated, will have two phases — a web-based process in all languages and a face-to-face consultation process which will focus on specific stakeholders –including children, military, disabled combatants, widows and ex-child combatants. The government has planned to mobilize civil society groups to undertake wide ranging consultations with multiple sectors of society to modify and supplement the mechanisms it has proposed.

Media Coverage

It was not only the government welcome that awaited the UN High Commissioner. His arrival in Sri Lanka was also marked by angry protests led by nationalist members of the opposition. They expressed their concerns that the High Commissioner was part of an international plot to impose a Western agenda on the country which would be detrimental to its unity and sovereignty. This is a sentiment that finds resonance in the majority of the Sinhalese people in particular who have a memory of long years of Western colonial oppression. In this context, the government’s warm reception and positive engagement with the visiting UN High Commissioner reflects is reflective of its top leadership’s commitment to addressing the long festering ethnic conflict and resolving it in a manner acceptable to all communities. However, this is not going to be an easy task.

President Sirisena’s efforts to limit the international participation into the inquiries about the past are likely to reflect the political concern that the majority of people need to be supportive of any government initiative taken to address the ethnic conflict. History is replete with examples of government leaders trying to resolve the problem without having the necessary political backing to carry out their intentions due to opposition, and ending up on the rocks as a result. There would be the further concern that any inquiry into the military’s conduct of the war is fraught with uncertain potentials. The Sri Lankan military is one that won the war at considerable cost, and it continues to remain strong both in terms of its physical presence in all part of the country and in the hearts and minds of the majority of people. In many countries that have undertaken investigations into the past, these have taken place after decades, and not after a few years.

Notwithstanding the president’s caution, there is reason to believe that he is serious in his determination to resolve the ethnic conflict and realizes that accountability is a key part of both good governance and reconciliation. Since becoming president he has had a consistent track record of public speeches in which he speaks of the war as a “cruel war” and has referred to the experiences of suffering of the people of the North and East as being much worse than those of the people who live elsewhere. More recently, he said that if the Bandaranaike-Chelvanayakam Pact of 1957 and the Dudley Senanayake- Chelvanayakam Pact of 1965 had been implemented, there would have been no LTTE. Unfortunately, the media does not give a high degree of coverage when he speaks of his commitment to find a path to reconciliation. On the other hand, it gives coverage in great detail and with much emphasis when the President says that he will not accept international involvement or when he praises the role of the Sri Lankan military in ending the war.

Priority Action

There are those who would cast doubt on the president’s sincerity saying it is limited to words. But they were provided an unexpected answer when the national anthem was sung in full in Tamil at the Independence Day celebration on February 4. It was a significant actions taken with the intention to lessen the sense of alienation of the Tamil speaking people and make them feel a sense of equal belonging to the national polity. It will also increase hope and confidence that the government will stay true to its mission of healing the wounds of many decades of inter-ethnic strife and war. The issue of language has long been an emotive and divisive one. The boycott of the Independence Day events by the opposition and the government’s mixed messages on the implementation of the resolution of the UN Human Rights Council were indications of the pressures that exist within the polity.

It is in the face of nationalist opposition that the government led by President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has taken the decision to go forward with the reconciliation process as their commitment for the unity of the country. The government had the courage and the wisdom to overcome the objections of nationalists and had the national anthem sung in both the Sinhala and Tamil languages. This was a message of care to the Tamil people. It is reported that Tamil leaders present at the Independence Day event has tears in their eyes. Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims have said they had tears in their eyes watching the event live on their home television sets. There is a need for more messages of care that would demonstrate to the Tamil people that they are not marginalized and are a part of the national polity.

Some other key areas for the government to tackle would be release of land taken over by the military, release of detained persons who have been incarcerated without charge for many years and ascertaining the fate of missing persons. Immediate steps taken in these areas would increase the trust and confidence of the Tamil people in the commitment of the government to resolve their problems and treat them as equal citizens. It would give more time and space to the government to tackle the contentious and sensitive issues of accountability for war crimes. There is the possibility of sequencing in the transitional justice process. Pablo de Greiff, who has been detailed by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to assist the Sri Lankan members of the Consultations Task Force is the Special UN Rapporteur for the promotion of truth, justice, reparations and guarantees of non-recurrence. The UNHRC resolution, which needs to be implemented, and the concept of transitional justice, are more than about accountability for war crimes, and include truth seeking, reparations and guarantees of non-recurrence which could be given priority at this time.

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Latest comments

  • 2
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    [Edited out]

    • 4
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      Well done. This guy is crazy.

      • 1
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        Jehan Perera, Let us be clear: There can be no reconciliation as long as the political culture of Corruption and Impunity for politicians like Mahinda Jarapassa and his gang of 50 thugs in the opposition and other corrupt crooks in the government continues.

        You cannot talk politics without talking economics, so please learn to do POLITICAL ECONOMIC analysis, JP! Tamils want EQUITABLE DEVELOPMENT, as much as, rights.

        Sinhala politicians use RACISM and and Hate Speech to DISTRACT the masses from their corruption, greed and economic theft of the national wealth. This is their bottom line. Basil Jarapassa built a 400 room hotel in Passikudha, Eastern Province on land that was stolen from Tamils.

        DISTRACT, DIVIDE and RULE to LOOT the public is the motto of the politicians, so until corrupt politicians are rooted out and held accountable, there can be no reconciliation. Politicians and their corruption and GREED and IMPUNITY is the root cause of the VIOLENCE in Lanka.

        Also, even the most perfect Constitution will not work if the people do not have the RIGHT TO INFORMATION and are not EDUCATED about what democracy and good governance means.

        So, What has happened to the RIGHT TO INFORMATION BILL? What happened to the speech that Ranil W was to make about Mahinda Jarapassa family’s overseas bank accounts full of looted funds? The people of the Sri Lanka have a right to know!
        1. From Which COUNTRY was the illegal money laundered funds came to Carlon Sports (CSN) that is under investigation?
        2. How and where EPF and ETF funds are invested. 3. Which Countries and Banks gave bad loans for useless development projects and which banks and financial outfits were involved in hedging deals and money laundering
        4. Which Ministrers/ministries own most of the national debt? Sri Lanka should set a trend in exposing SYSTEMIC FINANCIAL CORRUPTION of the big banks and global players.

        The fact is that what happened in Greece is not so far away a scenario for Lanka with IMF borrowings on the cards, when the priority should be to recover the 3$ Billion dollars that Mahinda Jarapassa family looted from Lanka and stows in overseas Bank accounts.

        The IMF systematically turns a blind eye and colludes in global financial corruption while forcing austerity measures on poor people to pay for the crimes of the corrupt rich few. This IMF racket must stop and Sri Lanka should not borrow from this morally bankrupt outfit!

    • 0
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      Jim softy

      You are a chilly/ie boy.

  • 4
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    Oh dear Jehan as always quietly humming the nationalist tune.

    ‘In many countries war crimes investigations happened after decades’ – that is not good. It is not something to aspire to Jehan. In many countries they also happened a lot sooner such as Bosnia, Rwanda and Kosovo.

    Singing the anthem in Tamil is nice, but what we really need is the rule of law in the North-East. We need to stop the torture, the rape, the holding of land and to send perpetrators in the armed forces to jail.

    Finally, the quote from the President you cite, says nothing of the involvement of foreign judges, prosecutors and investigators, which Sri Lanka committed to at the UN. He has reversed course and this is not new for Sinhala polity in Sri Lanka.

    Really, unclear why you continue to polish a turd here – you are not doing your credibility any good.

    • 4
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      alex
      Give us the readers, a list of people who were victims of torture and rape that keep happening in North East, with supporting evidence. If you don’t give any names all these accusations are fake.
      North Eastern Land should be held for security, Industrial, agricultural and Highway development. This is exactly what is going on in the south where Sinhalese have to forgo their land for such projects. Tamils and the NE should not be an exception. The country has to go forward, if you are not happy you could move to Tamil Nadu or anywhere else you would be happy. As a Sinhalese I have many issues that I don’t like, unhappy and not approve of. But I am not stupid to ask for self rule because of those issues.

      finally there was no commitment from SL to use foreign judges, prosecutors and investigators within our legal system. You must be crazy even to think a such happening in a sovereign country!
      I would only support some foreign advice if needed but using such advice is at our own discretion.

      • 1
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        The facts are in the UN report. Read it and start addressing it.

        • 0
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          alex,
          You mean the UN report which was made up without even stepping in to Sri Lanka and was based on asylum seeker and Tiger diaspora stories?

  • 4
    5

    During the final stages of the war larger number of LTTE carders died. Now they are classified as missing. During the 30 years of carnage wrote out by LTTE number of LTTE carders for captured for various offenses and imprisoned. Now they are termed Political Prisoners. During the 30 years of conflict LTTE kept the population in Kilinochchi under substandard living. They were deprived of basic right to life. Now they are termed victims. Thanks to Jehan and the like minded Diaspora Dollar boys we have a serious problem that results in bringing the Prince for whom the mass exodus of Syrians to the EU is a problem for Angela Merkal, to massage Viggies tired legs after walking to Nagadeepa.

  • 0
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    Dr.Jahan perera

    Your article indicates some good intentions. It will be in the deaf years of the Government. The singing of the National Anthem in Tamil, Why was it sung later during the end of the ceremony? It should have been sung following the Anthem sung in Sinhalese. It would have shown some recognition. To sing the Anthem during the latter part of the ceremony was a farce. National Anthem is sung during the raising of the flag and the national anthem should have sung in both languages one after another.
    The tears from some of the Tamil leaders during the singing of the national anthem in Tamil is another show or a weakness.
    Has it brought any good for the Tamil people who are longing for 25 years for their lands, their kith and kin who surrendered to armed forces, the Tamil youths who are languishing in jails. These are basic demands of the Tamil people which should have been fulfilled long ago to take a step for reconciliation. Jehan, you were speaking of reconciliation, the Tamil people are not ready to reconcile with the Sinhalese until their demands are met.

  • 0
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    The Double meaning talker, Jehan the Phd, once more defending the double talkers.

    “Prior to Independence Day there was an increasing concern about the extent of President Maithripala Sirisena’s commitment to the reconciliation process. ” Whom the PhD is fooling by using the word “increasing”? The election promise by New King and Ranil Mahata is simple. That is “There will be no solution beyond the 13A”. That is included not implementing 13A too, just like now. The other one is, “There will be no inquiry on any leader, any commander and even on any private soldier”. They are keeping their word without these promises decreasing. Further 47 War criminal’s names were given to SinhaLE, the Wildlife Sanctuary Government. It included the Old Royal Family and the New King too. Can this Sinhala Intellectual PhD show where and when the “Increase-Decrease” took place?

    The January 8th propaganda and relief promises are gone. Now the Independence Day propaganda is replacing it. The same dupe the government did on Victory Day parade. Full campaign was launched as it was being renamed as Remembrance Day. But what the New King and other crooks did on that day? They celebrated Victory Day in the South and cordoned and stopped the north from observing their remembrance day. The families have been secretly doing the Final process in their houses. Didn’t we see what happened at Taipnogal day?

    On the Freedom day, in the south they were singing the Tamil translation at the end of the celebration, to indicate Tamil will treated as second class language. At the same time, all over North, it was ordered to sing only in Singala or face the legal process. All the Tamil officers in the North obeyed that order. When taking to his heart the propaganda of the government seriously, Sampanthar was shedding tears of happiness in the south, in the North, the people were shedding tears of sorrow because they could not use their language on the land that is using it.

    “The government had the courage and the wisdom to overcome the objections of nationalists and had the national anthem sung in both the Sinhala and Tamil languages. This was a message of care to the Tamil people. It is reported that Tamil leaders present at the Independence Day event has tears in their eyes. Sinhalese, ” A real fraudulent statement from double meaning talker Jehan the PhD.

  • 3
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    Oh friend. please have patience. After going back thousands of steps backwards the singing of the Anthem in Tamil in the function is just one step forward. But it is hoped that it was a deliberate step taken and more will come step by step and carefully. Remember rubble rouses are still at work and thier howling can be heard.

    • 0
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      Well said Mr Marzook.

      These are not rubble rouses but real rubbles.

      This is what the war produced. It is difficult to straighten them.

      Their brain in located somewhere else in their bodies.

      • 0
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        It is ‘rubble rousers’ and not ‘rubble rouses’. Sorry for the typo error.

  • 1
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    Eusense
    Sir, you are talking like a person of below par intelligence and like someone who has just come out of hibernation. List after lists have been changing hands for a long time. What happened in Sri Lanka happens regardless.
    First and foremost the country has to climb out of the black hole it finds itself in before it can march forward. Only way it can climb out is to meet its responsibilities head on like our Foreign Minister promised at the UNHRC. If you can cast your mind back he also owned up to past misdeeds like avoidance, denial and negligence.

    As for our presidents pathetic speeches singing praises of SL armed forces it makes me want to puke. Ther were I am sure some gallant soldiers like any other war. We are not talking about them for they deserve our respect and gratitude. We are talking about people who willfully and blatantly broke the rules of engagement as agreed in the Geneva convention.

    This like the burning of the Jaffna Library will forever remain around Sri Lanka’s neck as a barbaric act of blatant genocidal action.

  • 0
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    There are numerous skeletons in numberous cupboards all over the country stacked in since independance. If to sort out the origins of all these skeletons; that is going to be a never-ending job and nothing else useful could be done. Bury those skeletons, forget them and move forward.

    • 1
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      Very convenient for the criminals who murdered those children, women and men. I think we should let the victims and their families decide.

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